|SLAVERY IN ROME
Even though they could be bought and sold as property, slaves were not treated as "things" by their masters. They were inferior members of the family. Modern racism is the closest parallel for the way Romans viewed their slaves. Slaves were supposed to love their master, and he should love them in return. Slaves were given names, but not the same type of names given to citizens. A parallel would be the way in which modern people name pets, usually choosing an inhuman name, such as "Fido" or "Spot".
Slaves could come from a variety of sources. Some came from conquered lands. Others were children born of citizens who did not want them. Exposed at a temple or local dump, they were picked up by a passing slave trader or benevolent citizen in need of a servant. Some free men voluntarily sold themselves into slavery to keep from going hungry. Some men sold their families to pay off an enormous debt.
A very rich Roman might have dozens of servants, while a middle-class Roman might have only two or three. A slave was supposed to live for work and nothing else. On holidays they were released from their duties and allowed to attend the festivals and games.
Slaves had neither wives or children. Their breeding was viewed as the breeding of livestock. When a female slave had a child, he or she automatically became the property of its master. It was up to the master whether or not to keep the child or drown him or her, as someone might drown unwanted kittens. Slaves could be sold at any time, and if they committed a crime could be legally executed by their master.
Some suspicious masters put bronze collars around the necks of their slaves, identifying their owner and the owner's address, in case the slaves attempted escape. A slave's only hope of freedom was the benevolence of his or her master. After years of dutiful service, many slaves were freed by their masters. Many slave-owners made a slave's freedom part of their will.
|ABOVE: An elderly woman and her boy servant
BELOW: A woman attended by her female slaves